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Mild Cognitive Impairment: New Diagnosis


Mild cognitive impairment (MCI)

is a condition that causes problems with your memory, attention, and ability to think clearly. You may have problems in only one of these areas, or in all of them. These problems are common with aging, but MCI causes problems that are more than should be expected in a person your age. These problems are frustrating, but they are not severe enough to stop your activities of daily living. Rarely, MCI may go away, and your thinking may return to normal. MCI may instead get worse and develop into dementia. Dementia is a condition that causes severe loss of memory, thought control, and judgment. Alzheimer disease is the most common cause of dementia.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have new or worsening symptoms.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Help create a care plan early:

A care plan is a way for you to make decisions about future care you may need. Your care plan can be set up so others know how to change it to meet your needs over time. This can be helpful if you are not able to make certain decisions later. Your providers will talk to you and anyone who lives or helps you about your personal and financial decisions. Your plan may include any of the following, depending on the type of MCI you have:

  • Driving limits may include how far or long you can drive, or not driving alone.
  • Gait training includes teaching you and other people how to help you walk or exercise safely.
  • Home safety includes instructions not to cook alone, or to set reminders to turn off appliances. Poison and firearm storage safety, and removal of tripping hazards can also be part of the plan.
  • Advanced directives are legal documents you can sign ahead of time to help others know your wishes. Examples include a living will, durable power of attorney, and financial and long-term care plans.

Manage MCI:

  • Do activities that engage you. Examples include computer games, solving jigsaw puzzles, gardening, and creating artwork. Activities that involve language skills include reading, writing, and solving crossword puzzles. You may want to join a group so you can interact with others who share your interests. Other people can help challenge and motivate you.
  • Manage health conditions that can worsen MCI. Hypertension, diabetes, and other conditions can cause MCI to progress to dementia. Talk to your healthcare provider if you need help managing a health condition you have.
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, low-fat meats, fish, beans, whole-grain breads, and low-fat dairy products. Your provider may recommend a heart healthy diet to prevent atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. This is a condition that increases your risk for dementia. A heart healthy diet is high in omega-3 fatty acids, fruits, and vegetables. It is low in saturated fats, salt, and sugar.
  • Exercise every day, or as directed. Physical activity may help improve memory and the ability to think clearly. Try to get 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week. Walking is a good activity for most people. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best activity for you.
    Walking for Exercise
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine in cigarettes and cigars contain harmful chemicals that can damage blood vessels to your brain. Smoking increases your risk for MCI and may cause it to progress more quickly. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. Smokeless tobacco products still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You may need to come in 1 to 2 times each year for tests. The tests will show if your symptoms are progressing toward dementia. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.